The year 2020 has had critical events that strengthened the fight for racial injustice. Who could forget about the global reaction to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police? Or the death of Breonna Taylor under almost the same circumstance – in the hands of the law enforcers.
Racism became a hot topic affecting every cog of the nation’s machinery. However, in terms of economic analysis, the same subject should also be delved into if analysts and economic experts aim to uncover why Black workers lag behind White workers regarding wages.
Numbers don’t lie
Records have shown that Black men and women have fewer chances of getting a job than White individuals. In addition, Black workers who are working full-time have 20% less pay than White workers. According to Darrick Hamilton, an economics professor at New York’s New School, the number of jobs is limited; therefore, they are sorted based on power, and “race is a deciding factor.”
Many would argue that it is associated with the degree of education or skills acquired, but the numbers don’t lie.
Black workers earn 80% of how much White workers make despite having similar levels of education. This goes to show that high-school graduates get less wage if they are Black compared to if they are White. The same circumstance applies if they have advanced degrees.
Denying racial discrimination is a thing of the past
A Howard University Professor, William Spriggs, wrote a letter to other economists pointing out that the case of George Floyd should be treated as a valuable learning resource in understanding the role of racism in the economic disparity among Black and White workers.
Part of his message in the letter is pointing towards economists who have repeatedly denied racial discrimination and omitted the subject as a reasonable cause of why African American workers are still behind in the economy.
Furthermore, together with other like-minded economists, Spriggs pointed out that their age-old argument that the wage gap is due to differences in skills can be counterargued with the degree of racial injustice that emerged in one year. Simply put, the repression of racial issues will no longer work since accounts, and firsthand evidence are easily flaunted in public.
But even without the undeniable evidence of racial injustice, it was already clear for historians and analysts that African Americans have improved their educational attainment since the last 40 years. In addition, more Black workers have completed higher academic degrees. Yet, the wage gap remains all the same.
However, the advocacy for fair wages among Black and White workers would still require further analysis.
As economists like Spriggs and Hamilton continue to urge other economic experts to look closer into the role of racism in the slow pace of Black workers’ wages, others still argue that historical accounts contradict racial discrimination. One example is how African Americans made progress after World War II.
Nonetheless, meticulous scrutiny of historical accounts and present-day data will improve our understanding of the effects of racial biases in the American economy and labor force.